Bibliophile | Designer Gregory Ladner was once just ‘A Boy and His Bear’

A Boy and His Bear
By Gregory Ladner
Hardie Grant

Born in 1950, Australian fashion designer Gregory Ladner has supplied David Jones for 50 years with must-have fashion accessories as well as making haute couture evening dresses, party frocks and wedding gowns for Melbourne’s best dressed women. Now that he has retired, he has had time to reflect on the threads that have run through his life and spill the goss on some of the behind the scenes shenanigans of the Melbourne fashion scene.

Living in Melbourne’s working-class west behind a milk bar run by his mother and grandmother, making outfits for Teddy was a major childhood occupation. He collected anything that sparkled – beads, tinsel, broken jewellery, silver and gold foil from chocolates – to make his creations for his teddy.

The boys’ toys he was given as presents didn’t interest him either, as the ribbon that held the wrapping was far more appealing, and he reminisces that he was giving fashion advice since he was a toddler.

Not at all interested in the lessons dispensed by his school, he filled the margins of his text books with drawings of shoes – hundreds of high-heeled shoes filing the pages of long division, short division and something called logarithms. In primary school, he found the Midday Movies more interesting when he went home for lunch, and often didn’t return to school.

Studying fashion at Swinburne University led to him being swept up into a world and lifestyle that he had never imagined even existed. Working in the “Paris End” of Melbourne’s Collins Street, he became a sought-after couturier as he always knew how to flatter and enhance any figure problems.

Still living in Melbourne with his partner Mark of nearly 40 years, Ladner’s collection of fond memories of a bygone era avoid any mention of his policeman father, for whom he was a bitter disappointment and who, in turn, bitterly disappointed his mother, his grandmother and him when he went off to start another family.

Illustrated with his exquisite pen drawings, Ladner shares his journey… a journey that has been fuelled by a life-long passion for designing clothes and accessories… weaving intriguing revelations and confessions into the sparkly fabric of his life.

Lezly Herbert

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